Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gymnopédie no. 1

The delicate melody of Erik Satie's Gymnopédie no. 1 is one of the most beautiful I've ever heard. It evokes profound emotion, but it's very difficult to determine what exactly it is I feel when I hear it. It's romantic and serene, but with longing, plaintive undertones that really breach the surface in the last chord of the song. It's the emotional ambiguity of it, and the lack of resolution at the end that keeps me returning again and again. Gymnopédie no. 1 offers a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful, but maybe something that's too beautiful to behold for too long, something that we're not ready for.

The song was used to stunning effect in the film Man On Wire. In the middle of his tightrope traversal between the World Trade Centers, Phillippe Petit stops and lies supine on the thin cable supporting him. From the ground, he appears to be lying on his back, floating in the air. Though I think the evocative nature of this song is so intense that coupling it with any imagery is risky and possibly even stupid, the image of Petit lying there, suspended in the air nearly moved me to tears. I think it resonated with me because it is such a powerful visual statement -- though we're impossibly miniscule, we're much more significant than we know. The best I can give you here is the still above, and the song itself. Enjoy.


angela said...

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angela said...

in response to your post:

i felt like i was sitting in Montmartre just below Sacre-Coeur. and i keep getting these short glimpses of the people around me. it's like i'm in an old film and the movement is very staccato, and the scenes are short and scratchy. and now i'm watching all these people. a little girl being picked up. a woman battling the wind and rain in a dress; letting the wind get the best of her (and her dress). now people are strolling by [1:30], particularly couples.

all these images of life and love. but i can't tell if its sad. i feel a little melancholy.. but then i think i feel surrounded by love and people in love. you're so right, its the emotional ambiguity of the song. there is something so sweet about it.. and yet i just want to cry. i've listened to this over and over at least 9 times in one sitting, so imagine what my heart is going through. and just when i think something might come of it all [2:41-2:54], it ends.. and now i'm a little anxious because i feel like something is missing. i have to open my eyes and realize i was never really in Montmartre after all.

i'm awful at describing these sorts of things. i can see it in my head so clearly, but i struggle to verbalize it. that's why i like reading yours. you are so good at illustrating and relating music. please don't stop.

Kaitlyn Rose said...

"...a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful, but maybe something that's too beautiful to behold for too long, something that we're not ready for."